Food waste has become a major problem of our society where 40% of the total food produced, is wasted from farm to fork. And categorically speaking, this waste is not just the waste of the food itself, but also the waste of water that was used to bring the food to plate, the waste of energy and resources incurred for growing the food. So, the waste is not just the food waste itself but a lot more hidden beneath it. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains. The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonne of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonne. Pakistan is on the verge of 100,000,000 food insecure families and current situation such as COVID, unemployment is pulling the string from both the ends.
To raise awareness on this issue, Rizq invited award winning global food wastage advocate, Tristram Stuart for an online session to share his experience and learnings on the issue. Tristram Stuart, who was born in the United Kingdom (UK), has been campaigning about food waste for over twenty years. He is the author of renowned books called, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal and The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times. Changing how the world’s food is distributed and consumed is Stuart’s passion. Tristram Stuart is triggering a global movement to significantly reduce food waste, which today leads to one-third of all food being wasted at a global level.
HOW IT STARTED FOR TRISTRAM STUART?
During the session Stuart highlighted how having the opportunity to grow on farms, he used to collect excess food including fruits and vegetables that were slightly blemished, or of irregular size but perfectly consumable, from the local market, for his animals on the farm. This was the start of his journey. He believes that we have associated high levels of cosmetic demands when it comes to purchasing fruits and vegetables, and a result lots of food is wasted that can otherwise be consumed. Having the opportunity to collect excess fruits as well as breads from local bakers, he started developing the approach to devote his life to food waste, which according to Stuart, is quite an irrelevant global scandal.
Companionship is the sharing of Bread
Moreover, Stuart delved a little into philosophy, history and culture to show the importance of food. Describing the origins of the word companion which literally breaks down into; com meaning man and panis meaning bread, and altogether meaning a man who breaks the bread with someone, Stuart highlighted how sharing and valuing food has always been part of innate human nature.
The Values of COMPANIONSHIP & HOSPITALITY in Pakistan
Stuart, also reminisced to the times when he came down to Pakistan for research on his books. Stuart was in awe of the country and of the extreme hospitality from north to south and the moral values of people that were quite strong and revolved around “companionship” and sharing of food.
If valuing food is so human, why does waste exist?
But the question arises, if valuing food and sharing food are traits that are so innately human. Why does the world waste up to a third of all the food it produces? Stuart categorically answered that more than a cultural issue there are a lot of economic and financial factors in play. For Stuart, companies and corporate interests are the single biggest reason for food waste. He explained that the word “company”, comes from “companion” and as such company is essentially a place where people come together to break bread. But modern companies driven by the relentless pursuit of profit have forgone the human values that come from sharing rather are directed by competition. Companies are thus machines and these machines are programed to produce more and not programed to reduce food waste, in the process. The profit driven motives of the company take no responsibility for the welfare of the planet, the effect on the environment and the wastage of resources. He believes that companies, when producing a certain amount should also report their total food waste to the government and this should be made a legislation for the food producing companies.
What can be done to prevent the global food waste scandal?
According to Stuart, ending food waste can only be done through a grass roots movement where people individually take responsibility for their actions and also hold accountable the institutions that cause food waste. Our consumer choices are the single biggest driver for companies and organizations and if we decide today to not play any part in this global scandal only then can we achieve a place without food waste.
This also means that individuals realize the effect of their actions on people across the globe. Food waste is a global issue. Actions in one part of the world affect people of the other part of the world. Consequences of food waste in the west affect the people in the east and that’s where the crux of human values are destroyed. He believes that people in west waste food because of their preferences placed over the cosmetic demands of food as well as the need of hospitality to keep the food to maximum during the buffet service while, here at east, food is wasted due to the negligence of the economic activities of the government which are unable to control the prices of wheat or inefficient provision of machinery, and the food goes to waste at the end of the produce.
He further stressed on the importance of regenerative farming. It is a conservative and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. The practice includes recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding composted material from source outside the farm. Hence, as soil health improves, input requirements may decrease and crop yields may increase as soils are now more resilient against extreme weather and harbour fewer pests and pathogens.
On the Role of the Youth
He believes that campaigning power of the youth is and will always be the driving force for changed behavior of the people towards food waste. The energy of donations and the energy of youth can be the helping hand for this global scandal. Although, Stuart claims that he himself is a pessimist and indeed the current situation is truly bleak. He still clings on to the hope that the youth can bring meaningful change.
He concluded with the notion, “If you want to change the world, throw a better party than people who are destroying it”.